A group of Texas National Guard troops based along the US’s southern border with Mexico have joined the union.
The group assigned to the US-Mexico border for Operation Lone Star is the first known unit to be organized in “active duty” status.
Their unionization comes after the Justice Department’s recent announcement allowing troops and guards to join their first meeting scheduled for next week.
A federal law that previously barred members of the military from organizing labor unions “does not apply to members of the Guard who are on active duty or in an inactive National Guard,” Justice Department lawyers wrote in a lawsuit last month.
National Guard troops in Texas legally organize and form trade unions during their public military service. Pictured: National Guardsmen guard a fence near the International Bridge in Del Rio, Texas.
National Guard troops will join the military council of the Union of Employees of the State of Texas.
According to the Army Times, the Operation Lone Star team faced well-documented problems with living conditions, equipment, and pay.
“We hope to improve everything [those] things,” said the soldier who led the organizing efforts of the union known as the Texas Employees Union War Council.
The soldier did not give his name, asking for anonymity due to fears of retaliation from the leadership of the Texas military department before the meeting.
Those in the union are made up entirely of active civil service troops assigned to the frontier.
Defense Department officials in Texas say the problems the troops are facing were “inevitable” and that steps have been taken to improve conditions for those working on the mission.
Normally Guards troops are only deployed to active duty for short periods of time, such as after a natural disaster or civil unrest, but the Texas National Guard’s Operation Lone Star includes up to 10,000 members of the Texas War Department who are mobilized on order for a year.
One of the soldiers organizing the effort also hopes Texas Guard leaders can speak more openly about mission completion requests for force-activated troops who want to return home.
The group is a small subset of full-time guardsmen who are dual-status technicians who are also already unionized as civil servants as federal employees.
These are usually active duty government missions where members of the guard are temporary government employees rather than members of the federal armed forces.
Because missions are short, often during natural disasters, organizing labor unions is impractical.
But the mission in Texas may be worthy of exception due to the large scale and apparent long-term nature of the frontier mission.
Operation Lone Star was created by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott amid a wave of illegal immigrants from Central America crossing the US-Mexico border. It deploys law enforcement to areas known to be used by human and drug smugglers.
The National Guard guides migrants to a line that just crossed the Rio Grande into the United States in Rome, Texas last July.
Released in March 2021, Abbott said he would deploy thousands of Texas Department of Public Safety officers and Texas National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border amid a surge in immigrants crossing the border from Mexico illegally or seeking asylum.
In the 12 months ending in October, about 1.7 million people attempted to cross the US southwest border, according to US Customs and Border Protection.
The record number of migrants has stunned state and local officials, who have been pleading with the Biden administration for help, and raised further concerns about the spread of COVID-19.
Operation Lone Star was created by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott amid a wave of illegal immigrants from Central America crossing the US-Mexico border.
Abbott’s spokesman claims the Lone Star State was forced to “activate” to secure the border while the Biden government was “out.”
“Texas continues to fortify our southern border and protect Texans in the absence of the federal government,” Eze said.
“Since Governor Abbott launched Operation Lone Star in March, the National Guard and DPS have detained more than 76,000 migrants and arrested more than 8,800 state and federal criminals, including smugglers and human traffickers, to stop the illegal passage of migrants arriving from more than 150 countries around the world.”
In July 2021, the number of clashes at the border reached a 21-year high, with 213,593 intercepted by immigration authorities.
Although this number has dropped slightly to 178,840 in December, according to the latest available data, it is still significantly higher than the roughly 40,000 migrants encountered during the same period in 2020.